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CONCERT DATE: October 21 1976 (8:30 pm). Kalamazoo MI.

Old (Well, a Little) Swivel Hips Hits Town - Ooooooooh, It's Elvis
by James Stommen
Kalamazoo Gazette
October 22, 1976

Let there be no doubt: Elvis is a heavyweight in the entertainment field. And for most of an overflow crowd at Kalamazoo's Wings Stadium Thursday night, that old (well, all right, just middle-aged) Presley magic made what they had gone through to see him well worth the effort. The 41-year-old entertainer rocked his way through an hour-long performance that left many of his fans of all ages breathless at best, and total drained of emotion in more than a few cases. Along the way, Elvis demonstrated that:

1) He has tremendous personal impact, despite the fact that he hasn't had what one could call a real hit in some time.

2) The Presley voice, while perhaps not encompassing the extreme range it once did, still has plenty of "ooomph".

3) The years (and pounds) are catching up to him. Not that many people seemed to care. Those fans who as teens 20 years ago used to joke about "middle-age spread" now prefer to think of it as "not getting older, just getting better."

Wings stadium officials said today the concert, which attracted nearly 8000 persons, grossed some $85,000. That would make it the biggest dollar-volume show in Kalamazoo history, narrowly topping the $84,000 total take for Frank Sinatra's appearance at the stadium last May. Tickets for the Presley performance were pegged at $10.25 and $12.75, the latter figure topping (by 25 cents) the top Sinatra ticket price, a previous record for an entertainment event here.

While the overall impression of last night's performance is one of overwhelming positive audience reaction ("pass the Alka-Seltzer, Ma, they're screaming again"), there were some aspects of negative response. For one thing, many of those in the stadium audience of middle age or older were getting their first exposure to the stadium concert scene. And if you haven't experienced the near-hysteria that surrounds top rock stars, the noise levels from both directions - performer and audience - can be overwhelming. Add to that the fact that the vision of a goodly share of those persons in 50 rows of floor-level seats was obscured by the more fanatic fans who chose to stand during much of the performance, and more than a little negative feeling can be experienced.

Let it be noted that there are extreme differences of opinion as to how good or bad a performance is (indeed, as this is being written, fellow staffers ranging in age from early 20s to early 60s are debating the issue). Suffice it to say that those who were Elvis fans prior to last night's concert thought it to range anywhere from good to terrific, and that those who were lukewarm at best probably didn't have their opinions changed by the performance.

After the usual array of warm-up acts ("When are they bringing out the dancing dogs and jugglers?" grumped one patron), word of a half-hour intermission led to an audible groan from an audience keyed up for the appearance of he who was once known as Elvis the Pelvis. But after lights had dimmed again and backup musicians heralded the star's approach with a rendition of "2001: A Space Odyssey," Presley padded on-stage to tumultuous applause and a wave of flashbulbs going off.

Opening with a drawn-out version of C.C. Ryder, Elvis cast what passed for sexy sidelong glances, pausing once to glance back over his shoulder at those in seats behind the stage. His mimicking falsetto cry of "Turn around" touched on the problem of satisfying those on all sides who wanted a view of The Man. Shifting (in more ways than one) into I've Got a Woman, Elvis showed some of the moves that once earned him the reference "Swivel Hips."

He made a quick reference to the problems he encountered at Pontiac Stadium last New Year's Eve, when the suit he had been poured into couldn't stand the strain of excess poundage, splitting the seat while Elvis was gyrating. "As long as this suit holds up, we'll be all right," he noted. Highlighting the evening for many fans were the excursions Elvis took to the front, back and corners of the stage, bestowing white or blue towels on lucky ones in the audience. Charlie Hodges, who sings harmony, has the even more important job of following Elvis around the stage, supplying him with fresh towels to bless with perspiration before tossing them to the wolves below.

Biggest audience response was saved for a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful, belted out in the latter portion of the program (it really should have been the closing number; that was its impact). Major reaction came to such long-ago hits as Jailhouse Rock, Chains of Love and a medley that included All Shook Up, Teddy Bear and Don't Be Cruel. He didn't sing Heartbreak Hotel which was his first big hit back in 1956, nor were such all-time hits as Blue Suede Shoes and Love Me Tender included in the Elvis repertoire, though some members of the audience shouted out the names of those past favorites. All of the members of the backup singing and instrumental groups got their moment in the spotlight, as well, including recognition of warm-up groups, the Sweet Inspirations and the Stamps Quartet, a lively Gospel singing group. The end came quickly when, after singing Can't Help Falling in Love, Elvis stepped to stage's edge for a few quick handshakes, then was whisked away by bodyguards.

And a crowd that numbered nearly 8000 persons began the slow journey out of the stadium and its surrounding parking lots. For those who were fanatical about the onetime King of Rock and Roll, the statement made by one early 20s woman to another may have summed up the entire evening: "You TOUCHED his LEG? Ooooooooooh!"

Courtesy of Scott Hayward